Arab Spring Crisis a Reflection of Its Birthplace, Tunisia

Tunisian demonstrators
From Libya to Turkey, the revolution that took place two and half years ago, known as the Arab Spring, seems to be sick. The crisis reflects the unrest in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring. Each of those countries, in which a series of popular uprisings lead to the downfall of ruling governments, is currently in turmoil. The scene seems to be the same in those countries as it was when the Arab Spring began.

Protest after protest continues everywhere. The disease is real and one of the ways to diagnose it may be to look at Tunisia, the birthplace of the ‘Arab Spring”.

In Kasbah Square, near the Prime Minister’s office Tunis, an estimated ten thousand Tunisians demonstrated Saturday in opposition to the country’s Islamist-led government. The demonstrators are demanding the departure of the government and the dissolution of the National Constituent Assembly. Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, of Ennahda, the party leading the ruling coalition, said earlier that Tunisia is in need of national unity. “I call for calm so that the army and security forces can combat terrorism and not waste its efforts on protests,” he declared, in answer to the opposition call.

Larayedh’s declaration shows that the crisis is real in Tunisia.
Protests have been taking place since the assassination of prominent leftist opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi on July 25 outside his home in the capital. He was the second opposition figure killed in less than six months.The tension increased on Monday after the killing of eight soldiers near the border with Algeria, but the unrest was initially triggered by the February killing of another of prominent opposition figure Chokri Belaid.

The shock wave from these assassinations was felt in the Tunisian parliament and government, where around 60 MPs and several ministers resigned. The resignations were an act of solidarity with the protesters. Crowds gathered several times outside the assembly building to express their disapproval of the government. Most of protesters are young and many women have also joined them. The Tunisian government has accused the hardline Salafists of being responsible for the murders of Belaid and Brahmi.

On Saturday, the government ordered a military operation in a remote mountain range after a deadly ambush that left eight Tunisian soldiers dead. The soldiers were found in the area on Monday with their throats cut. The government blamed militants for the ambush and also announced the death of a “religious extremist”, killed whilst handling explosives. Police found a suspect package in Tunis and warned security forces to withdraw from Mount Chaambi.

This tension recalls what happened in the country two and half years, when protests led to the fall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country as President since 1987.

The 2011 uprising in Tunisia that triggered the revolution in the Middle East, started at Souk al-Khodar market, in the city of Sidi Bouzid, where 27-year-old vegetable vendor Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest against the social and political situation in his country. Today in Sidi Bouzid, people are still waiting for the social and economic change expected to come with the Arab Spring. Their situation is still the same and the future seems uncertain. The Arab Spring has brought even further division, even among the Islamists themselves. The situation is the same throughout Tunisia; many people have lost confidence in the government and are still waiting for elections to be organized.

Born in Sidi Bouzid, the revolution that spread across North Africa and touched even the Middle East seems still inextricably linked to the situation in Tunisia – and vice versa.

Recent events in Tunisia almost appear to have been inspired by last month’s uprising in Egypt, where the coalition government, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, was toppled on July 3 by the Egyptian Army, following popular demonstrations denouncing the failure to address social and economic issues.

The protesters in Tunisia are calling for the government’s ouster for almost the same reasons.They believe that the revolution has taken a bad turn.

Egypt was the second country to be affected by the Arab Spring. Hundreds of Egyptians have been killed during protests held by supporters of recently ousted President Morsi. They are calling for the army to release him from detention and restore the elected government. He is being investigated over his links to the Palestinian group, Hamas – and their part in his escape from an Egyptian jail.

On Saturday, hundreds of Morsi supporters refused to end the sit-in they have been holding for a month in two locations in Cairo, defying the Egyptian army.

In Libya, located between Tunisia and Egypt, unrest is also prevailing. As in Tunisia, the recent assassination of an opposition political figure in Benghazi has led to unrest. Protests rose in Tripoli and Benghzi after the killing of Abdul Salam Mohamed Mismari, who spoke out against Muslim Brotherhood. 1,200 prisoners escaped from the jail while protesters were on the street to denounce Mismari’s assassination. Libyan Security Forces said the 1,200 inmates were mostly loyalists of Muammar Gaddafi, the dictator who ruled Libya for 42 years and who was ousted during Libya’s Arab Spring revolution.

Since the Arab Spring came to Libya, the Libyan capital, Tripoli and the country’s the second city, Benghazi, have become the scenes of daily bombings and gun battles. The Libyan Prime minister, Ali Zeidan, promised Friday to reshuffle the cabinet and reorganize the government in an attempt to solve the crisis.

The revolution is obviously in crisis. None of countries in which the uprisings of the Arab Spring took place have been spared from turmoil. Even though the crisis is different in the details, the security situation is generally the same in all those countries. The Arab Spring has yet to bring the expected changes. The Arab Spring crisis seems to be a reflected in Tunisia, its birthplace. It looks as when Tunisia sneezes, the whole revolution gets sick.

Eddy Isango

Source: BBC, CNN, Reuters, Washington Post, The Guardian.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.